Blasting onto the scene in rather late fashion, you can't help but feel sorry for Explodemon and developer Curve Studios. Four years of hard work, and the day the game is announced, developer Twisted Pixel also announces 'Splosion Man for XBLA - a title that looked remarkably similar. Suddenly the press is calling Explodemon "that game what looks like 'Splosion Man", and Curve Studios is left feeling deflated.
You can't get a good indie developer down, however, and last week Explodemon finally found its way onto PSN with its explosions, humour and retro vibe intact. There's plenty to love crammed into this boomtastic package, with clever puzzles, tons of hidden areas and secrets to discover, and plenty of replay value. Unfortunately, it all feels rather uninspired and repetitive, and by the time you reach the last level, dullness has set in.
Enemies! Puzzles! Explosions!
The Vortex are coming, the Vortex are coming! The planet of Nibia is under attack, and the rulers have just about given up. At the last moment, guardian (and highly experimental) robot Explodemon is released from statis, and begins rampaging through the aliens by getting up close and personal with them, then exploding himself over and over again.
It's all about momentum. Jump and explode at the same time, and Explodemon will launch into the air, reaching higher ground and taking out enemies at the same time. His explosion bar will deplete after each boom, so you'll need to keep a balance between using the ability and handling dangerous surroundings. On the flipside, if you don't use the ability for around five seconds, a five second countdown timer will start, after which he'll explode anyway. Basically, he's detonating whatever happens.
This tendency to explode leads to many a nifty puzzle. Switches can be bombed, blocks boomed into place, rooms of enemies cleared out to allow progression, glass barriers smashed out of the way... the number of ideas is really quite astonishing, and for the first world at least you'll find yourself constantly smiling at just how genius it all is.
Each level contains ten Explodicons, and these are either out in plain sight or, more usually, completely hidden away. Good luck finding them all - there are some seriously tricky places and secret areas to find, usually by going at a puzzle from a different angle or doubling back on yourself. Grabbing more Explodicons will lead to a better score and eventually a better rank at the end of the level.
Grabbing those Explodicons can be really tricky
In fact, Explodemon is a high-score hoggers dream. Ranks depend on how fast you complete a level, how many icons and speed boosts you obtain and enemies destroyed, and grabbing A ranks on all levels is insanely difficult. The highest we managed on one level was a B rank, and we thought we'd done pretty damn well! Explodemon has tons of replay value potential and will see you through many an evening.
The overall personality involved is lovingly crafted, from the quirky conversations to the retro-styled sound effects. The story itself is told via comic-strip cutscenes and silly dialogue, but it is Explodemon who steals the show. Our robot hero cannot string together a single sentence that makes sense, and instead says all sorts of random crap. Yet, throughout play, we eventually found ourselves actually understanding his drivel.
While Explodemon has the makings of a great PSN release, it just doesn't build on the foundations enough. As you progress through level after level, puzzles don't really feel all that varied, even as new abilities are unlocked. Every level looks and feels the very same, and by the last world we didn't feel like we were having fun anymore.
There's a shop where you can spend points on new upgrades to Explodemon, increasing his explosion size and the like, but it's barely noticeable and doesn't feel like it contributes to the action at all. You're given new abilities at the end of each boss battle, and yet we can't honestly remember what any of them were off the top of our heads, so dull are the ideas. And speaking of those repetitive boss battles - yaaawn.
There just isn't enough variation in puzzles and enemies
Playing back through the game can feel like a real chore too, thanks to the unforgiving nature of the puzzles. Mess a puzzle up, and it may well be undo-able, meaning that to retrieve an Explodicon, you'll have to restart the entire level. No thanks!
Explodemon is great fun for a few hours, providing interesting puzzles to blast your way through and many a secret to uncover. Repetition swiftly sets in, however, and you may well find yourself not bothering to play through to the end. Still, it’s worth grabbing the demo to see whether you’re into the concept.